21 January 2009

Fresh French Bread in China

Bread comes in two forms in China, one attempts to copy western recipes for baguettes or sandwich loaves, the other is strictly Chinese and involves steam and no flavor. The former is generally spongy, soft, or stale in a day. And while the latter goes well with a spicy, sweet Chinese meal, it can not be toasted or made into grilled cheese. Concerned with this lack of decent bread, last year I undertook baking bread at home.

While I had made bread before, my lack of oven in China presented a daunting obstacle. I knew I could not make a traditional loaf due to lack of space in my small toaster oven--
the top would burn before the rest had cooked. I recalled reading an article in Vogue (of all places) a year or so before about "No-Knead Bread." The idea has since taken The New York Times and the rest of the world by storm and offered a perfect combination of easy preparation and necessity of a small, enclosed space for the bread to bake. Using a small ceramic pot (traditionally used for stew or something) in my toaster oven provided the bread a warm, moist space to rise and bake. For the last minutes of cooking, taking the cover off the pot created a crackling crust indicative of quality french bread. I had success with the first try!

Now I make this bread every other day, mixing the dough in the evening and letting it rise overnight, giving it a second proof for an hour in the morning, and
then putting in the toaster oven for about 40 minutes and out comes this:


  1. How many hours of work does it take, all said and done, to bake one of these beautiful loafs?

  2. About 24 hours all said and done! But you're only actively cooking for about 10 minutes.

  3. Andrea says..."That's beautiful bread!"
    Alyson says.."I can't believe she bakes it in a toaster oven!"